Authorities are on guard in Waco after a shootout among rival motorcycle gangs at a restaurant left nine bikers dead and raised the specter of further violence. This as police announced more than 170 people have been arrested and the restaurant/bar where it happened has been closed.
Police had initially announced that 192 people were arrested Monday morning and booked into the McLennan County Jail but they have now lowered that number. Those arrested are charged with engaging in organized crime.
Police also announced that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission closed Twin Peaks, located in Central Market off of I-35 near New Road, for a week amid safety concerns. Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said Monday that law enforcement overnight received threats from various biker groups and that the TABC, responsible for alcohol regulations and compliance, than decided to close Twin Peaks for seven days.
Authorities increased security to quell other possible attempts at criminal activity following the melee Sunday at Twin Peaks that also left 18 bikers wounded.
The violence erupted as members of at least five rival gangs gathered for a meeting.
Police say a dispute broke out, escalated to include knives and firearms and eventually spilled into the restaurant parking lot.
Parts of downtown were on lockdown Sunday night, and officials could be seen stopping and questioning motorcycle riders.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara says the nine dead were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. It is an update to a previous story. The original version is as follows:
Waco police said nine people have been killed and 18 injured in a shoot out between motorcycle gangs outside of a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.
Police said all of those killed and wounded are members of biker gangs.
Sgt. W Patrick Swanton, spokesperson for Waco Police Department said just after noon on Sunday members of rival biker gangs started arguing inside the restaurant. Within seconds the argument turned into a fist fight and escalated as chains, clubs, knives and guns were used.
"In my nearly 35 years of law-enforcement experience, this is the most violent and most gruesome scene that I have dealt with," said Swanton.
Waco police said the situation turned deadly for members of five rival biker gangs.
"It was armed individual shooting at armed individuals, fights in areas, people stabbing each other, and the hostility turned towards law-enforcement and law-enforcement got out to quell that threat," said Swanton.
The SWAT team and DPS officers were close by thanks to information that a violent incident was likely to occur. By the time they arrived on scene there was a full blown shoot out.
"Our officers returned fire with several of those individuals. We don't know at this point if our shot placement or them being shot at by other bike gang members is what led to their demise," said Swanton.
Police said eight people died on scene and another died at a local hospital. 18 more were transported to hospitals with gunshot wounds or stab wounds.
"I was amazed that we did not have innocent civilians killed or injured," said Swanton.
Police said they had warned Twin Peaks managers for months about rival biker gangs from all over the state meeting at the restaurant.
Last week, officers said they also contacted the Twin Peaks corporate office about the gang activity.
"We wanted them to help us. Yes, we feel like they could've done more. We feel like they did not take our advice in trying to keep the bike gangs from being here. They absolutely have the right to refuse service to people that may be a harm to their patrons and employees. They didn't do that. Today is the ultimate aftermath of what their decision was," said Swanton.
In a statement, Jay Patel, operating partner for the Twin Peaks Waco franchise said, "We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today. We share in the community's trauma. Our priority is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our customers and employees, and we consider the police our partners in doing so. Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police and we will continue to work with them as we all want to keep violent crime out of our businesses and community. We will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime."
Police have already arrested three people and have detained dozens more. Talk of retaliation has officers in Waco on high alert.
"We have intel that there may be other bike groups or bike individuals headed into Waco. I will tell you there is a large contingent of law-enforcement that is here and ready to deal with those individuals in the event they come to Waco and try to produce any more criminal activity," said Swanton.
Central Texas Marketplace where this Twin Peaks is located has been shut down because police did fear that bikers would show up there to retaliate.
Police said they have already recovered about 50 weapons on scene and expect that number to double before the investigation is complete.